Feb 6, 2010

The Copyright Corner

There is a lot of myths about visual art copyrights so this column will deal with this in the next few weeks.

This information is from the US Copyright Office

General Information
Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States to
the authors of “original works of authorship,” including “pictorial, graphic,
and sculptural works.” The owner of copyright in a work has the exclusive right
to make copies, to prepare derivative works, to sell or distribute copies, and
to display the work publicly. Anyone else wishing to use the work in these ways
must have the permission of the author or someone who has derived rights
through the author.
Copyright Protection Is Automatic
Under the present copyright law, which became effective January 1, 1978, a work
is automatically protected by copyright when it is created. A work is created
when it is “fixed” in a copy or phonorecord for the first time. Neither registration
in the Copyright Office nor publication is required for copyright protection
under the present law.
Advantages to Copyright Registration
There are, however, certain advantages to registration, including the establishment
of a public record of the copyright claim. Copyright registration must generally
be made before an infringement suit can be brought. Timely registration can also
provide a broader range of remedies in an infringement suit.
Copyright Notice
Before March 1, 1989, the use of a copyright notice was mandatory on all
published works, and any work first published before that date should have
carried a notice. For works first published on or after March 1, 1989, use of the
copyright notice is optional.

Copyright protects original “pictorial, graphic, and sculptural
works,” which include two- and three-dimensional
works of fine, graphic, and applied art. The
following is a list of examples of such works:¹
• Advertisements, commercial prints, labels
• Artificial flowers and plants
• Artwork applied to clothing or to other useful articles
• Bumper stickers, decals, stickers
• Cartographic works, such as maps, globes, relief models
• Cartoons, comic strips
• Collages
• Dolls, toys
• Drawings, paintings, murals
• Enamel works
• Fabric, floor, and wallcovering designs
• Games, puzzles
• Greeting cards, postcards, stationery
• Holograms, computer and laser artwork
• Jewelry designs
• Models
• Mosaics
• Needlework and craft kits
• Original prints, such as engravings, etchings, serigraphs,
silk screen prints, woodblock prints
• Patterns for sewing, knitting, crochet, needlework
• Photographs, photomontages
• Posters
• Record jacket artwork or photography
• Relief and intaglio prints
• Reproductions, such as lithographs, collotypes
• Sculpture, such as carvings, ceramics, figurines, maquettes,
molds, relief sculptures
• Stained glass designs
• Stencils, cut-outs
• Technical and mechanical drawings, architectural drawings
or plans, blueprints, diagrams
• Weaving designs, lace designs, tapestries
Copyright protection for an original work of authorship
does not extend to the following:
• Ideas, concepts, discoveries, principles
• Formulas, processes, systems, methods, procedures
• Words or short phrases, such as names, titles, and slogans
• Familiar symbols or designs
• Mere variations of typographic ornamentation, lettering,
or coloring
Useful Articles
A “useful article” is an article having an intrinsic utilitarian
function that is not merely to portray the appearance of
the article or to convey information. Examples are clothing,
furniture, machinery, dinnerware, and lighting fixtures. An
article that is normally part of a useful article may itself be a
useful article, for example, an ornamental wheel cover on a
Copyright does not protect the mechanical or utilitarian
aspects of such works of craftsmanship. It may, however,
protect any pictorial, graphic, or sculptural authorship that
can be identified separately from the utilitarian aspects of an
object. Thus, a useful article may have both copyrightable
and uncopyrightable features. For example, a carving on
the back of a chair or a floral relief design on silver flatware
could be protected by copyright, but the design of the chair
or flatware itself could not.

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